Bangladesh Football: Dare to Dream?
By Padya Paramita
The FIFA World Cup craze usually heralds the golden days for flag salesmen. They usually ask only one question: Brazil or Argentina? As faithful as we are to 'our favourite footballing nations' (can you name the capital of Brazil? And no, it's not Rio de Janeiro), it is undeniable that the pre-qualifiers for 2014 actually did bring out our patriotism. The hope of flying the Red and Green in the FIFA World Cup may be gone, but we did dare to dream.
The Bangladesh football team caused quite the excitement around the country by beating Pakistan in the first leg of the pre-qualifier 3-0. You had to agree this was big. Sure it was 'pre' qualifiers, and the rain may have helped, but we enjoyed a rare moment. Note that this gave rise to the incredible Facebook fanpage 'Fifa 12 achievement: beat Bangladesh in waterlogged condition.' People consider us a threat and we even survived the away leg with a goalless draw, setting up a fixture with Lebanon.
The first leg of the second round of the pre-qualifiers was away at Beirut. On their day-off, just before the departure, controversy arose. Two of the national strikers Emily and Mithun went to Manikganj to play in the DC Gold cup. They denied it at first, but admitted that they did leave later on. They were retained in the squad for the greater good - the country's top strikers were needed.
To add fuel to this fire, the new Macedonian coach Nikola Ilievski stripped goalkeeper/captain Biplob off both his roles. Mamun Khan took his place between the bars in what was a very embarrassing match. A 4-0 loss to a team far below us in the rankings? Both coach and players received a large amount of criticism. Coach gave an excuse about how they had bigger players, who were more physical and experienced. Nobody cared, they just continued to bash him. From those who had seen light after the Pakistan victory to those who had always been sceptical - Bagladesh football team was a common public enemy.
Prior to the second leg, which was to be in Dhaka, the coach practically admitted defeat in the pre-match press conference. Well, obviously that was a given since we had to win by at least 4-0 to even pull it into extra time, but attitudes like "I failed to lift [the players'] spirit" is just crazy. We had to play for pride and we had 90 minutes to do so.
Bangladesh had never beaten a Middle Eastern team. Before 28th July, 2011 that is. They couldn't enforce the tie-breaker but still, in what was an even contest before the second half, Bangladesh showed strong character to bow out of the qualifiers with heads held high. We won 2-0. And the scorers of those two goals happened to be the two very men who had been reprimanded for playing hookey - Emily and Mithun. The scoring chances were plenty though. We could have won 6-0. But nevertheless, the result was better than what many people expected. An aggregate of 4-2 didn't seem bad, but it made us go "If only we had conceded two goals less..."
So another campaign in attempting to reach the main qualifier stage ends for the Red and Green army. What else does our new enigmatic coach have up his sleeve? More importantly, can we dare to dream again? Behind every cloud is a shining sun, and hopefully someday we can see Bangladeshi flags flying as freely as the South American ones during the World Cup. Russia 2018 here we come!
Last week our topic was Firebreather. We had a very good turnout and the piece below was rather interesting with its chase scene. Next week our topic will be: Lovestory. Make what you will of that. Submissions need to be sent in to firstname.lastname@example.org before Sunday noon. Word limit: 500 words. Good luck.
By Razeen Mujarrab
I ran and ran until the sweater vest that I had on felt like it was doused in water. My lungs burned when I breathed in and my knees locked up. But I didn't stop, I couldn't miss this.
I was still running - I took a left, a right, then another right, and finally a left into the dark alley. At the end of the alley, I slowed down. Gasping, I heaved myself up onto the low wall. Once crouched on top, I glanced back and listened hard. I could hear footsteps, very distant footsteps. There was a small smile playing on my face as I leapt down on the other side. They won't know I'm gone.
I walked in the darkness, groping the grimy sidewall, until I reached what seemed like a dead end. But I knew better so I took out my dagger from the pouch tied to my waist. I aimed a couple of feet in front of me and made an arching motion with the small knife. The tip of the dagger caught at the cloth and with a loud praaaat! a part of the canvas of the tent tore open.
I couldn't believe my luck as I looked on. It was a perfect view of what was going on inside! I adjusted my position a little and could see clearly. What I saw left me awestruck.
There she was: a manic determination in her eyes and sheer strength in her whole body. The scales on her body seemed to glow an eerie golden. Her eyes closed, and she started inhaling. This was the moment I'd been waiting for. My heart thumped hard in my chest and I was paralysed in anticipation and, also, a little fear.
As soon as she opened her eyes, I could feel the air getting hot around me. Her mouth opened wide and instantly a stream of flames spewed out, the sparks spreading around in all directions. Within that second, the inferno lasted forever. When it ended she blinked a couple of times and stood her ground.
I realised almost a full minute after the spectacle that I wasn't breathing. Her body glistened in sweat, and the dragonscale-like tattoos gleamed on her arms and shoulders. The circus came to town once every three years. And the fire breather never failed to leave me amazed.
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